Coalition conundrum


The ODT editorial on Labour’s reshuffle highlights the coalition conundrum:

. . . With support for the Greens remaining at election night highs, it is conceivable that party could have five ministers in any future government, perhaps even including a deputy prime minister. . .

Despite the need to govern together, Labour and the Greens are not always natural friends, with each party continuing to snipe away at each other. To provide the electorate with a compelling argument on why it should vote for a Labour-Green government though, some collaboration is necessary. . .

To be  lead a stable government under MMP the major party has to attract the swinging voters in the middle.

Voters need to be convinced parties could work together but the people in the middle are least likely to be attracted to Labour if they fear the Green Party  will drag it too far to the left.

Opposition still want to tax and spend


Opposition parties’ announcements on housing confirm they haven’t learned from the global financial crisis, the mistakes of the labour-led governments of the noughties and their loss at the 2011 election.

They still want to tax and spend.

Prime Minister John Key said in his opening speech to parliament yesterday:

On this side of the House, where we have ideas and where we have plans, and where big success is not just stumbling over the autocue, we have four key priorities. No. 1 is responsibly managing the Government’s finances. That means living within your means. That means New Zealand earning a living. That means being sensible with taxpayers’ money. . .

Let us go back to getting back to surplus. On this side of the House we know that, when it comes to spending, Labour and the Greens are the Usain Bolt of spending.

They are the world champions when it comes to spending. Nothing has changed, and they will continue, given half a chance, to do it again. They cannot help themselves. Every time they open their mouths, they either get it wrong or they spend money they do not have. Those are the only answers they have got. . .

But the ODT points out the public appetite for such disregard for other people’s money has dulled:

. . . the Opposition parties, all of them, need to adopt a dose of common sense and realism if they are to make an impression. Although many voters have a wish list, not many want their taxes to increase to pay for such policies.

It’s easy enough to promise to give people what they think they want. It’s much harder to get them to accept paying for it.

Bradford vindicated?


The opposition to power reforms of the 1990s and their architect Max Bradford were a significant contributing factor to the loss of the seat of Otago for National’s Gavan Herlihy.

David Parker, who won the seat, told a pre-election meeting in 2002 that they were one of the factors which motivated him to stand for Labour.

But were they really so bad?

Kiwiblog has a graphic, originally from the ODT, which shows they did work as intended:

Add this story to Scoopit!.

Regulation and re-regulation aren’t the only factors which affected prices.

The reliance on hydro generation puts pressure on supply and therefore price if there is a drought which reduces the water flow into the lakes behind dams.

But prices went down when retail competition was introduced and went up again when Labour re-regulated the electricity market.


Some questions best left unanswered


One of the first rules journalists learn is that good news stories should answer all the Ws – Who, What, Where, When, Why and hoW?

The ODT has a story about rangers rescuing a seal in a G string at Lovers Leap.

Two questions it doesn’t address are whose G-string it was and how it got from the owner to the seal.

But there are exceptions to every rule and there are some questions best left unanswered.

Quip of the day


My body is about 90% water. Will I have to give it back? –  D. Miller Wanaka in the ODT’s To The Point (not online).

How much high country do we need?


The ODT sums up the issues around pastoral leases well and concludes:

High country farmers could be forgiven for feeling they have been under siege in recent years, that their way of life and knowledge and – perhaps most significantly their intergenerational attachment to the land – was being disregarded by some.

The key issue is surely what is best for the land and its greatest immediate threat is from the spread of wilding conifers, broom and rabbits

At a time when the Department of Conservation is having its budget squeezed, it makes sense to rely more on the emotional attachment and land management skills of those on the land.

Legislation governing tenure review has returning land to the state as the preference but that isn’t necessarily best.

Huge tracts of high country are already locked up in the conservation estate, some of it is of low conservation value and all of it is expensive to maintain.

Land, flora and fauna can be and are conserved under private ownership at little or no cost to the taxpayer.

Change of heart?


A communication glitch before last year’s National Party Mainland conference led to the media being excluded from most of proceedings.

There is a place for in-house sessions when members get to hear and say things which might not be aired in a public forum. But conferences are also a vehicle to showcase people and policy.

We did much better this year, and Dene Mackenzie, the ODT’s political editor, noticed.

What a difference a year makes for the National Party – a change for the better as far as involving its members and  being decidedly more open than for many years. . .

He gives me credit which I appreciate, but it should go to  many people including other office holders, the board, staff and MPs  who are committed to on-going improvement.

. . . National had been in danger of losing the support of a wide cross-section of loyal supporters who had become tired of being talked at rather than talked to.   

Feedback on Saturday was positive, but there is still a way  to go.   

 This year, break-out groups got a chance to spend time discussing the speeches of the first three speakers with the speakers, before reporting back to the wider conference.   

Interestingly, every MP, whether they were list or  electorate, paid sincere tribute to the hard work of the volunteers who helped get them elected .  . .

That was noticed and appreciated. There were many factors which led to National’s electoral success last year, one of the important ones was the number of volunteers who support the party and the efforts they go to for it.

. . . Showing members there is a chance to make a difference to the way the party operates will attract and keep activists, not      all of whom want to become MPs but do want to be involved in  the political process.   

The weekend was a first step in the party organisation  regaining the trust and support of the people who fund it.

Dene says the party has had a change of heart. It’s not so much that as a greater commitment to giving value to members.

Conferences aren’t the only place for them to have their say. Branch and electorate meetings and policy advisory groups give plenty of opportunity for contributions. The Southern region held a policy day with MPs last year and will have at least one this year.

But conferences get the most attendees and attention and it is important that members have plenty of opportunity to contribute.

National has the largest membership base of any party in New Zealand and it’s growing.

Ensuring members are valued and get value from their membership is essential if that is to continue.

NZers won’t gain from DIRA changes


Fonterra doesn’t usually pick public fights with the government but it is making no secret of its strong opposition to proposed changes to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act.

I’m not sure what further scrutiny of the way the company sets the price of milk is supposed to achieve in theory. In practice it will add compliance costs to the company while looking at only one part of the production chain from paddock to the consumer.

That is however, a relatively minor inconvenience compared with the proposed changes to Raw Milk regulations which Fonterra chair  Sir Henry van der Heyden said won’t work and will have New Zealanders subsidising increasingly foreign-owned dairy processors that don’t sell milk in New Zealand and who send their products and profits offshore.

Fonterra’s Shareholders’ Council chair Simon Couper (not online) says:

“Competition is good as it ensures our Co-operative stays lean, efficient and competitive however, there is no successful example in economics where a business is forced to subsidise its competitors, says Couper.

“The Government’s legislation proposes that New Zealand subsidise increasingly foreign-owned competitors while doing little or nothing to ensure milk is available to those processors who need it most or who assist the domestic market . . .

Based on 2011/12 projections less than half of the 570m litres supplied to other processors  this season will make it to the New Zealand domestic market with approximately 300m litres (53%) forecast to go to Independent Processors who primarily export product overseas.

Of that 300m litres two-thirds is claimed by processors with some level of foreign ownership.

“When one sector of an industry has to subsidise another it creates inefficiencies and false economies.

“This proposed legislation would further fragment the New Zealand dairy industry and weaken New Zealand’s export returns, strengthening our overseas competitors at the expense of the New Zealand economy and the average New Zealander.

 Federated Farmers also says none of the proposed changes will reduce the price of milk for domestic consumers:

“Not one of the changes proposed to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act, or its regulations, will make milk any cheaper in the supermarkets,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

” . . . One of our Wellington staff members tells me Karori New World has been selling two litres for $3, as long as you spend $25 in-store.

“At that price, it is identical to what Cole’s has been selling milk for in Australia, once you take out our GST and exchange rate differences.

“What concerns me is that people seem to think farmers get all of the value from retail milk sales. I can tell you our share in a one litre carton of retail milk is around 360 millilitres.

“If someone’s skimming the cream I’d suggest looking harder at the wholesale and retail ends. How come Karori New World can sell two litres of milk for $3 but another New World sells an identical bottle for $3.72?

“That’s where the margins are, instead of the farmer who produce the milk in the first place.

“So what people need to really ask of the Government and of proposed changes to the DIRA is this; where is the domestic competition? Not just at the supermarket but for farmer’s milk itself.

“Precious few of the processors who take this milk, bottle it and then put it onto the shelves of supermarkets or dairies. Too few of these processors get milk from the farmgate and compete locally as they do internationally. We really need to know why,” Mr Leferink concluded.

Among those who do supply the local market are boutique cheese and ice cream producers. If the proposed changes are enacted these small locally owned businesses could be squeezed out by bigger foreign-owned companies which then export the milk.

The ODT editorial also raises doubts over the milk shake-up:

In an attempt to placate public concern about soaring domestic milk prices, the Government appears to have alienated our biggest company and largest export earner and also unwittingly assisted its partly owned foreign-owned dairy processing competitors . . .

 . . . Increasing New Zealanders’ access to dairy products is a laudable motive, but there are real doubts that these proposals will do little more than hamstring our largest export earner.   

Farmers at a Fonterra shareholders’ meeting in Oamaru yesterday were united in their opposition to the proposals.

As one asked, where’s the benefit for New Zealand and New Zealanders if the changes won’t reduce the price on the domestic market and will both add to compliance costs for the company and help foreign-owned businesses export at Fonterra’s expense?

People are upset about the sale of farmland to foreigners which will have little if any impact on them. They would be much better turning their attention to these proposals which will help foreign-owned companies at the expense of our biggest exporter and do nothing to reduce the price of milk on the domestic market.

Quote of the day


. . . When other sales of land to overseas owners are considered, and the safeguards written into the consent considered, the outcry over this bid has been disproportionate.

Its real importance to New Zealand is the extent to which it strengthens ties with a market fast becoming this country’s most important economic lifeline. – ODT

Concept of concert


The ODT says the Big Night In was absolutely fantastic and the production was.

A lot of work had gone in to the show and the performances were professional from the amateurs recruited from around the south and the bigger names from further afield.

The were concerns about the sound quality but you can’t expect concert hall acoustics in a stadium designed for sports and nor it seems can you expect concert hall behaviour.

The evening was billed as a family event and that’s who it attracted. A lot of children spent the show running round the ground and their noise competed with the singing.

However, a lot of people old enough to know better also competed with the singing.

A small party came in late and sat behind us. They arrived while 15 year-old Seqoia Cunningham was singing Ave Maria. One woman said in a tone of surprise, “Everyone’s talking” then proceeded to talk throughout the song, and subsequent ones, herself.

A friend whose daughter was also singing said she thinks some people don’t understand the concept of concert, when performers perform and the audience listens in silence, anymore.

This was a free concert, with a set budget put on to celebrate the ODT’s 150th birthday and the new stadium. We enjoyed it but I think the performers were let down by the audience.

Happy Birthday ODT


The Otago Daily Times, New Zealand’s oldest daily paper and the only one still under private independent ownership, is celebrating its 150th birthday.

Every day this year the ODT’s print edition has had a page counting down to the anniversary of its first publication, a small, four-page tabloid, on November 15, 1861.

On Tuesday, the paper will mark its sesquicentennial by printing a special edition covering 150 years of news and 80 additional pages and tonight the paper is hosting the province at the Big Night In at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Top Otago young performers will be joined by national and international stars for what promises to be a spectacular show.

ODT Big Night In

Property rights vs BORA


Property rights have met BORA in Dunedin’s Octagon and property rights have lost.

Police have refused to enforce the Dunedin City Council’s trespass notice against the protesters in the Octagon:

Police had been considering their legal position for the past week, but Insp Sparrow yesterday concluded the trespass notices did not meet “the test of balancing the rights and freedoms of all parties”.

What about the rights of other people to use the green space being occupied by the protesters?

What about the council’s right to object to rubbish and human waste on public space?

What about the rights of the council to determine what can happen on the land it owns and is responsible for on behalf of the whole community?

Mayor Dave Cull is considering other legal options.

He told the Otago Daily Times he was “disappointed” at the time police had taken to reach their conclusion, and by their decision not to enforce “legitimate” council bylaws.

“We are completely at a loss to know where the lack of enforceability might begin or end.

“It makes one wonder just what the police will enforce in our community and what they won’t. Is it up to them to decide what the law is, or can we rely on our laws and bylaws?

“It leaves us wondering, I guess, whether we can rely on backup for the community’s interests.”

The council isn’t saying the people can’t protest, it’s just saying they can’t protest in this manner in this place.

The ODT opines:

The police’s reluctance to act on the trespass order raises an interesting question. If they take no action against breaches of the reserves and camping control bylaws, might they also hold back on enforcing breaches of other bylaws?

Indeed, which would they uphold and which would they not?

And what would happen if the protest was taking place on private land?

Property rights aren’t absolute. But are they  all, including the right to exclusive use and peaceful enjoyment of your own land, subservient to the Bill of rights?

Happy headlines


ODT – All Blacks muscle way into World Cup final

Too big, too strong and, most of all, just too damn    clinical. The All Blacks beat the Wallabies 20-6 in the World    Cup semifinal last night, and showed they have the muscle and    grunt to go with the renowned finesse in the side . . .

Southland Times – ABs trample over Aussies

France versus 4 million, the All Blacks have their date with destiny after surging into the Rugby World Cup final. . .

The Press – Screaming for All Black joy

After living through their city’s devastation, Christchurch residents could
finally scream for joy . . .

Dominion Post – All Blacks reward party faithful at fanzone

Clad in black, with faces painted in silver ferns, a crowd of thousands cheered the All Blacks to victory in Wellington’s fanzone last night . . .

NZ Herald – Epic All Blacks deliver on huge night

Yes we can and yes we did – in style . . .

And not so happy:

The Australian – Wallabies outplayed out smarted all blacked out

THE Wallabies’ World Cup campaign lies buried in the graveyard of Eden Park after they were bundled out of the tournament by the All Blacks last night . . .

Sydney Morning Herald – Great hope of rugby fumbles and bumbles when he was needed most

If that was Quade Cooper’s best game ever, as captain James Horwill fearlessly  declared it would be on match eve, then one can only wonder what  his worst has  been . . .

The Age –  Kiwis on the cusp after walloping Wallabies

AND yea, verily, it is written. Though long have our Kiwi cousins walked in the  shadow of the Valley of Death, through World Cup loss after World Cup loss, as  an entire people plumbed the depths of despair, now, now the hour is  upon them. The promised land is now just up ahead around the bend . . .

Peter FitzSimons gets full credit for graciousness in the last column.


Why the secrecy when it’s not a secret? – updated


Helen Clark is back in New Zealand and told the Bay of Plenty Times she wouldn’t be giving interviews and was “home on family business”.

She is perfectly entitled to visit her family and not give interviews, but I don’t know why she wouldn’t in this case because it was an opportunity for her to promote a very good cause. 

One of the reasons she’s back in New Zealand was to speak at a fundraising dinner for Project HHH – Hearts and Hands for Haiti. That was publicised in the ODT, Oamaru Mail and HHH’s website.

Oamaru nurse Robyn Coupler spent more than 30 years working in Haiti. She was back home when the earthquake which killed more than 230,000 people struck.

She and local supporters set up HHH to help survivors and the trust has sent several teams of doctors, nurses and physiotherapists to Haiti.

Robyn already had local networks and the teams were able to work with local people to give the help they needed most in contrast to the United Nations teams which some thought were doing little good and some harm.

A supporter of HHH contacted Ms Clark who was impressed by the work the charity was doing and offered to help.

That’s it – a good cause, no conspiracy so why the secrecy?

Hat Tip for the BPT link: Whaleoil

UPDATE: The ODT’s report on last night’s funciton is here.

Thanks for the stadium, Malcolm


Malcolm Farry and the team promoting the Forsyth Barr stadium have faced a barrage of criticism over the design, location and cost.

They stayed firm, focussed on building a stadium we could be proud of and it opened on Friday – more or less on time and to budget.

That was no small achievement and the stadium itself is a wonderful asset not just for Dunedin but the lower South Island and, at least until the rest of New Zealand catches up, the country.

Thank you Malcolm, you and your team have done a really good job.

Snow threatened yesterday morning and there was a polar wind blowing when we got to Dunedin an hour before kick-off in the match between North Otago and West Coast. Inside the stadium and out of the wind, though the temperature was merely cool but not uncomfortable.

We were on the lower level of the south stand near the 22m line and had a good view of the whole field. The loos were spotless and plentiful – 38 loos and 14 hand basins with high speed hand dryers for women  at either end of each level and men reported more than enough for them. 

I have just a couple of recommendations for improvements – a responsible host might consider selling water for less than $5 a bottle when beer cost just $1 more; and there would be a market for hot drinks as well as cold.

Hundreds of North Otago people had come down to inspect the stadium and cheer on the team. We were rewarded when halfback Hamish McKenzie went over for the historic first inter-provincial try at the stadium.

North Otago kept the lead, although the final score , 29-19, probably flattered the team .

For more words and some photos of the stadium and yesterday’s game check out this baby makes it all worth while by  Hayden Meikle  and a match report in the ODT and Mydeology’s day 5 of opt-out watch Forsyth Barr stadium bonanza edition.

Former Dunedin mayor Peter Chin and sitting councsellor Lee Vandervis debated stadium funding on Afternoons.

Final, final farewell to Carisbrook


We were at what was supposed to be the final test at Carisbrook when the – All Blacks played Wales last year.

However, Christchurch’s earthquake mounted munted Jade Stadium which gave the ‘Brook a final, final test against Fiji last month.

Rfdunedin reminded me the final inter-provincial between southern rivals, Otago and Southland will be played there today and his memories of its past brought back some of mine.

My first visits were when I was a student, standing on the terrace.

It would have been a couple of decades before I went back in the early days of the Highlanders when it was stacked full of All Blacks – Taine Randell, Jeff Matheson, Tony Brown, Marc Ellis, Josh Kronfeld . . .

There were other rugby tests and some cricket matches too.

But the highlight was watching Otago win the NPC. I think that was John Leslie’s last game for Otago and he was given the ball for the last play of the game which was a kick for a penalty.

A stadium doesn’t make a team but here’s hoping the new Forsyth Barr one creates even more good memories.

For far more informed and detailed memories, Brent Edwards recorded his for the ODT last year.

Someone might miss out on TV debate


Prime Minister John Key and Opposition leader Phil Goff have sensibly agreed that they will debate each other on television but not take part in the circus which will be the minor-party leaders’ debates.

However, the ODT (not online) reports another aspect to this story:

. . . a  multiparty debate would be open to party leaders represented in Parliament, a TVNZ spokeswoman said party leaders not represented in parliament were required to reach a 3% threshold in at least one of the network’s two Colmar Brunton Polls.

The most recent CB poll results were:

National is up to 53% while Labour sheds seven points to 27%. The Greens take some of that vote, bouncing up to 10%, while Act and the Maori Party are both sitting around 3%.

New Zealand First (2.4%) would need to double its support to make it back, and the Mana Party (0.5%) and United Future (0.3%) are barely registering.

Last time I counted 2.4% was under 3%.

But I wouldn’t rule out its leader using this to his advantage, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s pulled the lone warrior against the establishment card.

RIP Shrek


The merino wether Shrek which went from hermit to hero died today.

Shrek was found by Ann Scanlan in a cave on Bendigo Station during a muster. His immediate fame was due to the marketing nous of station owner John Perriam and this photo taken by Stepehn Jacquiery a phototgrapher with the Otago Daily Times who was holidaying near by:

In his book Dust to Gold * John explains how the photo was a happy accident:

Stephen took a few photos . . .

‘That’s about all I can do,’ he said as he started to put his camera away. Then Digger (who Cage had nicknamed Jack Russell, because he is small) said, ‘I bet you can’t carry that thing over your shoulders, Cage.’

Cage gave him a look of disdain then, taking up the challenge, reached down and picked up Shrek, pulling him over his shoulders. Few men have the strength to carry a 46 kg sheep, and Cage beamed down at Jack Russell as he walked across to the trailer . . .  Meanwhile Stephen, seeing the photo opportunity, had desperately pulled out his camera again, just in time to get the shot that would go to every corner of the globe. . .

The ODT and other major papers in New Zealand published the photo on their front pages. Then Reuters picked it up and within 24 hours Shrek and Cage were gracing papers and websites all around the world.

This resulted in publicity for Shrek, merino wool, and high country farming which money couldn’t buy. John and his late wife Heather also realised there was a fundraising opportunity. It started with the live-filming of the shearing of Shrek’s 27 kg fleece. Other publicity and fundraising appearances followed, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Shrek’s chosen charity, Cure Kids.

* Dust To Gold, the inspiring story of Bendigo Station, home of Shrek, by John Perriam, published by Random House 2009. All royalties from this book and Shrek the story of a Kiwi icon go to Cure Kids.

Some get it some don’t



But the wider population has cottoned on to realities Labour seems obvious to. The party’s promises, its policies, its priorities and its whole attitude is based on the assumption the run of mostly debt-fuelled and hollow prosperity of the noughties is still with us, or at least is just around the corner again.

ODT editorial:

Yet the gap between National and its chief opposition, the Labour Party, remains wide, and Labour has been unable to yet find an effective means to close it.

The boldness of National’s bid to seek a pre-election mandate for policies which, on the whole, might be regarded as having little attraction compared with more usual “hip-pocket” measures suggests the party’s strategists are reading middle New Zealand considerably more accurately than their opponents.

Trans Tasman and the ODT editorial get it. National gets it. Many voters get it. Labour and its potential coalition partners don’t.

Over taxing and consumption fuelled by borrowing got the country into trouble; lower taxes, more savings, investment and export-led growth are what will get us out of it.

Untrue colours


Towards the end of my time at high school the board decided on a uniform change.

The grey gym frock which we wore with short sleeved shirts and socks in summer and long sleeved shirts and black tights in winters was to be replaced with a red tartan kilt in winter and a blue dress in summer.

“Blue? Why blue when the school colours were red and black?” we asked.

Those on the right side of the Waitaki River who are interested in rugby, and some who are not, are asking a similar question today: green, why green?

The question comes in response to the decision to change the Highlanders’ jersey from blue, gold and maroon the colours of Otago, North Otago and Southland, to green the colour of um, the grass they play on and some other province.

Respondents to an ODT poll have voted 90% (1321) to 10% (148) to keep the southern colours.

The Facebook page has attracted 1,853 likes and lots of comments including this from National’s Dunedin MP (and rugby referee) Michael Woodhouse:

 . . .  As for this happening because of the many players drafted in from outside the franchise area – sorry to be blunt but it’s not about you! You will leave. The fans won’t. this is about the thousands of fans who support this team through thick and thin over the past 15 years. Not a single one of them relates to anything but blue, maroon and gold. C’mon guys, be big enough to stop or reverse the announcement.

And an online petition has been launched saying:

Tradition and recognition is a huge part of the sport and yet the Highlanders Management seek to dissociate the Highlanders from the region. Sign this petition and Boycott the Force game!

The Highlanders have struggled for several seasons, severely testing the loyalty of fans. This year they’ve had some good wins and have been  regaining  support. This silly change in colours threatens to lose it again.

Have the people behind it spent too much time at the bottom of rucks?

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